B.C. human rights tribunal allows complaint over breach of accommodation agreement involving bakery worker at Safeway to proceed

Grocery store with bread and pastry. Photo: Wideonet/Getty Images/Canva

A former bakery helper at a Safeway grocery store has had a part of her discrimination complaint slated for a hearing by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

The complaint, filed in December 2019 by the worker — KN — alleges that the employer failed to adhere to an accommodation agreement related to her physical disability, resulting in employment-related adverse impacts.

The crux of KN’s complaint centers around her diagnosis of sciatica in May 2014 and the resulting restrictions against working certain shifts, particularly the “donut shift.” Despite these restrictions, she claims that she was asked to work this shift, leading to injury and a denied WorkSafeBC claim.

Following a medical leave and reduced schedule, she returned to regular hours in November 2015. In 2016, an Accommodation Agreement was signed, outlining specific work limitations for her.

Fast forward to January 2019, and Sobeys (parent company of Safeway) announced the closure of several stores, including the one where KN worked. She was presented with options to either be placed in another store or resign.

KN alleges that after refusing to work the donut shift in April 2019, as per her medical restrictions, her hours were significantly reduced, and subsequent employment opportunities at other stores were revoked without explanation.

Sobeys, on its part, denies the discrimination claims. The company states that her refusals to work the donut shift were accepted without any negative consequences to her wages or work environment. They also assert that the termination of KN’s employment was a result of store closures, a process affecting multiple employees, and not linked to her disability or refusal to work specific shifts.

The Tribunal, after reviewing the submissions, decided to proceed with a hearing for KN’s allegation regarding the failure to abide by the Accommodation Agreement. However, it dismissed the part of her complaint related to adverse impacts from the termination of her employment, citing a lack of reasonable prospect for success.

For more information, see Norvell v. Sobeys Capital Ltd., 2023 BCHRT 207 (CanLII)

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